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The 100: Is It Racist? The Answer Isn’t a Simple Yes or No

Over the last couple of days, there has been a lot of discussion in The 100 fandom regarding racism in the show. Questions have been asked and opinions have been shared. Discussions have been had and cast members have weighed in. Still, no definitive conclusions have been drawn.

The following are numbers and statistics that I have been able to find, based on information listed in IMDb, about concrete numbers when it comes to white cast members vs. PoC cast members; white character deaths vs. PoC character deaths; white characters tortured/injured/ill vs. PoC characters tortured/injured/ill.

White Characters

Clarke

Abby

Octavia

Jasper

Kane

Murphy

Finn

Nia

Maya

Monroe

Fox

Harper

Cage

Emerson

Dante

Lexa

Byrne

Sterling

Nyko

Wick

Gustus

Council Member #2

Senior Council Member

Lee

Diana Sydney

Vera Kane

Tristan

Vincent

Ryder

Keenan

Chivalrous Boy #3

Jake Griffin

Chief Guard (1)

Drew

Chief Guard (2)

Chris

Atom

Charlotte

Healthy Kid

Myles

Roma

Craig

Denby

Red

Caris

Cuyler Ridley

Fio

Intimidating Guard

Artigas

Miss Lucy

Richards

Delano

Niylah

Broadleaf Ambassador

Reese Lemkin

Young Octavia

Tor Lemkin

Aurora Blake

Grounder

Derek

Dax

Trina

Boy in Mask

Pascal

Deek

Sienna

Tris

Apprentice

Quint

Diggs

Bree

Harris (1)

Young Clarke

Angry Parent #1

Lovejoy

Angry Parent #2

Tranq Gun Guard

Zoran

Patient

Inspector Grus

Culled Woman

Garza

Guard

Lead Guard

Reaper

Child

Young Member of the 100

Little Boy Lovejoy

Harris (2)

Sgt. Langston

Shooter

Mt Weather Soldier

Supervising Med Tech

Teenage Girl

Mr. Peters

Mrs. Peters

One of the Grounders

Weak Grounder #1

Female Street Vendor

Ice Nation Ambassador

Young Man #1

Lexa’s Sentry

Macallen

Scarface Grounder

Polis Sentry

Pike’s Guard

Bryan

Ark Citizen

Tomac’s Wife

Grounder

Reaper

Tim Barlet

Total = 112 white characters

PoC Characters

Bellamy

Monty

Jaha

Raven

Lincoln

Miller

Jackson

Indra

Sinclair

Tsing

Anya

Mbege

Wells

Shumway

Council Member #3

Sgt. Miller

Connor

Jones

Council Member #1

Penn

Soldier

Healthy Grounder

Boy #1

Guard

Mel

Echo

Chivalrous Boy #2

Rebel Guard

Grounder Woman

Atohl

Rivo

ALIE

Mt. Weather Soldier #1

Gina

Callie ‘Cece’ Cartwig

Nygel

Young Bellamy

Del

Arker

Red Eyed Boy

Kid #1

Emori

Laughing Kid

Lexa’s Guard

Horace

Young Wells

Sobbing Kid

Guard

Sgt. Scott

Satisfied Girl

Osias

Alpha Reaper

Other Tech

Volunteer

Mt. Weather Soldier

Costa

Tomac

Man

Langston’s Buddy

Ark Jail Guard

Peri Gordon

Young Man #2

Pike

Ambassador Assistant

Earth Monitor Tech

Ark Guard

Total = 66 poc characters

6 poc characters dead (9%)

11 poc characters Tortured/Injured/Illness (17%)

26% poc characters either dead OR tortured

Characters of Unknown Race 

Council Member #1

Griff

Woman (1)

Lily

Caspian

Woman (2)

Brixton

Guard

Hard Looking Girl

Voice in the Crowd #1

Grounder Guard

Teenage Boy

Ice Nation Lieutenant

Juvenile Prisoner

Juvenile Delinquent

Background Performer

Louis Montgomery

Grounder

Total = 17

White Deaths

Finn

Maya

Fox

Cage

Dante

Byrne

Sterling

Gustus

Diana Sidney

Vera Kane

Vincent (Maya’s dad)

2 white teens lost in forest during acid fog

Jake Griffin

Atom

Charlotte

Roma

Tristan (Grounder Warrior – died when dropship door closed)

Artigas (Grounder boy killed by Finn)

Tor Lemkin (little girl’s dad who volunteered in the culling)

Aurora Blake

Dax (killed by Bellamy in 1×8)

Tris (Anya’s second, injured in bomb on the bridge)

Quint (Grounder injured by Lexa & killed by gorilla)

Lovejoy (killed by Bellamy)

“Culled Woman”

“Little Boy Lovejoy”

“Shooter”  (Mt Weather person at Tondc after bombing)

Mr & Mrs Peters (Mt Weather couple who were protecting sky teens)

Literally EVERY Mt Weather person was white & was killed

Total = 30 named/recorded

PoC Deaths

Wells (killed off due to not screening well with audiences)

Tsing

Anya (killed off due to her getting a role as a regular in AoS)

Mbege (John #2)

Shumway

Connor

Total = 6 named/recorded

White Characters Tortured/Injured/Ill

Clarke – Illness from Trikru, Knocked Around by Dax, Knocked Around by Lincoln, Knocked Around by Anya, Shot by her own People, Assassination attempts by Mt Weather & Quint, Knocked Out by Trikru, Severe Emotional Trauma (more than others)

Abby – Drilled

Finn – Poisoned Blade, Captured & Dragged Behind Trikru

Octavia – Her Existence & Imprisonment on the Ark, Fell & Injured, Held Hostage by Lincoln, Shot with Poisoned Arrow, Severe Emotional Trauma (more than others)

Jasper – Speared & Hung to Tree

Kane – Captured by Trikru, Injured by Bomb in Tondc

Murphy – Hung by Crowd, Tortured for 3 days by Trikru, Illness from Trikru, Sea Creature Bite, Outcast

Harper – Drilled

Fox – Drilled

Wick – Injured in Several Explosions

Nyko – Held Hostage by Octavia, Held Hostage by Mountain (freed)

Gustus – Cuts from Trikru

Miles – Shot by Arrow from Trikru

“Reaper” – Turned Addict & Reaper

“Uncredited Reaper” – Turned Addict & Reaper

Total = 14

PoC Characters Tortured/Injured/Ill

Bellamy – Tortured by Mountain, Illness from Trikru, Hung by Murphy, Severe Emotional Trauma (more than others)

Monty – Drilled (?)/Caged

Jaha – Captured by Trikru

Raven – Cheated on, Illness from Trikru, Shot, Disabled (surgery w/ no anesthesia), Cuts by Trikru, Drilled, Severe Emotional Trauma (more than others)

Lincoln – Beaten, Electrocuted, Stabbed through Hand, Turned Addict & Reaper, Held Captive by His Own People, Severe Emotional Trauma (more than others)

Indra – Shot by Mountain, Injured by Bomb in Tondc

Anya – Bled by Mountain, shot by Sky People

Connor – Peed on by Murphy

Mel – Injured in Ark landing

Echo – Bled by Mountain

“Alpha Reaper” – Turned Addict & Reaper

Total = 11

Overall Total Characters = 195 (Named,Credited,Uncredited but Listed – IMDb)

Percentage of KNOWN Cast that are PoC = 34%

Percentage of KNOWN cast that are White = 57%

Percentage of KNOWN cast of unknown race = 9%

112 white characters  

30 white characters dead (27%)  

14 white characters Tortured/Injured/Illness (13%)    

39% whites either dead OR tortured

66 PoC characters

6 PoC characters dead (9%)

11 PoC characters Tortured/Injured/Illness (17%)  

26% PoC characters either dead OR tortured

Now, from those numbers, I’ve formed some opinions and drawn some conclusions of my own. These are strictly my beliefs and are not necessarily held by Talk Nerdy With Us. I have also shared them on Twitter and Tumblr, where they have opened a very interesting and healthy dialogue that is ongoing, but that I will include parts of. I hope you take the time to read, form your own opinions, and possibly even decide to contribute to the discussion by responding in the comments at the end.

*These initial comments were made before the percentages were added.

What I see from this information is that the more the character is tortured, the more important that character is to the show. And as for those speaking of Clarke with her mantle of leadership in S2 while Bellamy is downplayed? I think what we’re going to see in S3 is a parallel where they’re reversed. Bellamy is going to be the one with the mantle of leadership while Clarke does a lot of stuff that’s probably heroic, probably going to save the human race somehow, but is seriously downplayed and low-key. Why? Because this show LOVES parallels. And these two characters have ALWAYS had them. Just look at 1×8 with the inversion seen in 2×16.

The white people ARE the ones largely dying and being tortured. And if you look at those who are being put through the most, THEY’RE OUR MAIN CHARACTERS. And there are THREE that are white and THREE that are PoC. Their varying story arcs are based on their personalities and character traits, NOT race, and are meant to show them as relatable to different people in different ways regardless of race.

Responses I received to these comments included the following from Tumblr user ship-picky:

I’m going to preface this by saying I love the 100 and I don’t think it’s a “racist” show. However, counting the number of deaths/injuries in this way doesn’t really mean much.

It’s all about percentage. Of course there are more white deaths/injuries because there are more white characters. And this doesn’t just apply to the show but includes all of television. Under representation is the same reason fans revolted at Tara’s death in Buffy. Many claimed Joss killed off characters indiscriminately, but up until that point he only had two queer characters on the show, so they automatically had a 50% death rate. Not to mention the Bury Your Gays trope didn’t help things much. That’s also why Wells’ death angered a lot of people. He was literally the embodiment of Black Dude Dies First (the two redshirts on the dropship don’t count).

I know death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints and I don’t believe all minority characters should be safe but writers should be intentional when it comes to representation and also be aware of historical context. I don’t actually know how the numbers play out on the 100 but not getting it 100% right doesn’t mean a show is racist. But it’s not like it’s perfect either. People screaming at either ends of that spectrum should take a step back and re-evaluate.

My answer:

My post came as a result of things said on Twitter that I was told I hadn’t addressed. Someone did mention the percentage detail and I plan to TRY to get percentages today. The IMDb cast list doesn’t have pictures or description for some of the minor characters on the show and only a few of the uncredited cast are listed so it will only be as accurate as the info I can access.

The reason I started looking into it like this is that some on twitter were telling PoC cast members that their opinions and beliefs about racism and whether or not they exist in the show are wrong and that their opinions don’t matter because they’re still suffering from institutionalized racism. Those on Twitter then started bringing up the race/torture race/deaths argument they have so I decided to look into it.

As for Wells, I totally understand. The problem is, when it’s test audience info that caused them to kill the character off, that’s not the writers or show being racist. It’s the audience. And when you’re trying to get a new show off the ground, you kinda have to take test audience info into consideration. Even if the show wanted to leave him in, the network would never let them.

Also, as a part of the Twitter conversation, I was told that ONLY whites should be tortured and killed in the show. I didn’t even know how to respond to that.

From Tumblr user rosymamacita:

As a Latina, I am thrilled beyond thrilled to see this level of representation of PoC in mainstream TV. And these are not just the sassy best friend or the thug in the hoodie. These characters are fully realized and complicated and have their own internal worlds and motivations and are not there to serve as adjuncts to the main white characters. Sometimes they are jerks, or crazy, heroic, brave, sexy, angry. Sometimes they are everything at once. Their place in the story is not a function of race because race doesn’t matter in that world.

Lincoln doesn’t become a reaper because he’s black. He becomes a reaper because he is giant and muscled and amazing, so he’s the one they pick, to become a fierce fighter. And when he was tortured, he was actually tortured by another PoC, Bellamy. For that matter, Bellamy was also tortured by another PoC– Dr Tsing. Because that’s the thing. In this world, PoC get to be the heroes, the love interests, the villains, the leaders, the lunatics, the support team, the best friend, the genius, the murdered, the sacrifice, the redeemed, the beast, the beloved, the fridged.

So yes, the PoC in The 100 are killed and tortured and put through hell. But we are looking through their eyes and understanding their pain and learning their stories and hearing their voices and THAT is representation. It’s not creating perfect characters to whom nothing ever happens. Freaking Raven is the strongest character on that show, and her life has been NOTHING but torture, and we love her for it, because it doesn’t stop her. And that’s not about being Latina.

I notice the same thing on The Walking Dead, another show where people complain about how many PoC are killed. But frankly, it’s not so good to be a pretty blonde white girl or a wise old white man on that show. Every last one of them is dead at this point. They don’t even get replaced.

I feel strongly about this issue. I have thoughts.

My reply:

THANK YOU for sharing those thoughts! They are SO important! I couldn’t have said or expressed those things better myself. If I’d tried, I would have been out of line because I, as a white person, can’t speak to the experiences of PoC in show vs out of show and if I said what you did about them being tortured as people, not because of their race, it would be irrelevant. I don’t have a voice on that. But you do and I’m glad to know that there ARE some PoC who have the same thoughts I do and CAN make their thoughts known, their opinions heard.

There are always multiple sides to any discussion and the discussion can’t go far if any side isn’t represented.

The biggest problem I see in these discussions is that people care more about being right than about listening to each other and learning about their experiences, the things that have formed their beliefs.

I had a very healthy and enlightening conversation with rosymamacita that continued with the following:

Here’s the thing about racism… it’s an issue that minorities have to deal with but it’s actually mainly a white problem. The racism is generally coming from the white power structure, and those who benefit from it. To shut down the conversation with a white person means there is no way to change it. It is the WHITE PEOPLE who need to take responsibility for racism, and for changing racism.

Another thing to realize is that, while PoC are often coming at an issue from a different perspective, experimentally or culturally speaking, we are not THE OTHER. We are Americans (and people) too, and we know this world.  I have a different perspective because I am half Puerto Rican and half white and I have been dealing with this issue since I was a child, as a part of two communities.

Like I said, racism is actually a white people problem, so if they aren’t part of the discussion then our attempt to transform and end racism is less effective.

Part of the problem with racism is that the victims of racism are understandably angry and sensitive. So if you WANT to be a part of the conversation, you have to be aware of how you’re coming off.

Her words made sense to me and changed the way I looked at several things. My response to her is here:

Agreed. It’s way too easy to let frustration get the better of you.

Then, from Tumblr user rashaka, I received this message:

This is interesting, and I am curious to see the opinions and discussion that comes from it.

I don’t think the counting here is wrong at all (it fits my memory at least), but point of view is all in the measurement. Is going purely by numbers the best way to ask if screen violence has racial undertones?

Other ways of measuring that might change this outlook:

– the duration of screen time for suffering / torture scenes per character

– the state of the character’s presentation (heroic? weak? fully cognizant?)

– relative proportion of named chars :: suffering chars

– the depiction of violence compared to the historical / fictional tropes about violence and violent imagery

For example, seeing Jasper and Lincoln both be tortured is terrible, but *how* their torture is presented to the viewer makes a big difference in the affirming or dismissing stereotypes. Jasper suffered from terrible injury, but he wasn’t shown to be driven to an animalistic state of mania. Differences like that add a layer of complication to this kind of analysis. It’s possible for a show to make a concerted effort toward progress (such as evenly distributed misery) and still end up portraying racist tropes or instances.

Ultimately the best hope is probably to cast more people of color and more women, because fixing the problem of proportions will make the depiction of screen violence feel less targeted. When you’ve only got 2 or 3 turtles in a 12-turtle race, losing one is a pretty big deal.

Before answering, I completed the information about percentages that’s included in the list at the beginning of this article and the following are my conclusions, including several thoughts that were tweaked/changed/adjusted from my initial statements:

Are the numbers perfect? Of course not! But again, what I see here is that the writers and casting directors are making a concerted, deliberate, very CONSCIOUS effort to pay attention to these numbers, these percentages, and be as appropriate and sensitive as they can be in how they are representing race in various manners.

I also see that the percent of white dead characters vs. PoC dead characters is pretty appropriate. And the percentage of white dead characters is MUCH higher than the percentage of PoC dead characters.

The difference between the percentage of white characters tortured/injured/ill vs. the percentage of PoC characters who have been tortured/injured/ill is negligible. Yes, more PoC have been tortured/injured/ill, but overall wouldn’t you rather have that and the characters still be ALIVE than have them DEAD?

The fact is, in the world of the show, EVERYONE is going to be tortured/injured/ill at some point in time. Regardless of race.

Also, to address rashaka’s point about the specific situations and tropes being used, what I see is a group of writers making a deliberate choice to use situations and tropes that ARE problematic for PoC in our world right here, right now, to show how those PoC are still dealing with the cycles that were institutionalized so so long ago BUT are struggling through and finding ways to break free of them and come out the other side even stronger, more kickass, and more heroic than they were before. And I see their suffering getting the most screentime and most explicit definition in order to make sure that no one can deny their strength, badass-ness, and heroism when they come out the other side.

What I see with the white deaths and white suffering is that it’s downplayed and given next to no screentime at all. Which is also appropriate. And what IS being highlighted with the whites is how their decisions – no matter what those decisions are or how they make them or what their intentions are when they make them – effect others and ALWAYS have consequences. Consequences that they and everyone around them are going to have to live with or die for. It’s showing their journey toward realizing the impact their decisions have made, the mindsets and prejudices that their choices have created. It also shows them breaking as they realize they’ve been monsters, knowing there is NOTHING they can do to fix the mess they’ve made. It shows them despairing and becoming hopeless, not stronger or more heroic but rather tragic instead.

This show is trying to right historical wrongs. It’s trying to look at so many things through a self-reflective lens. Every situation depicted is opening a raw wound but it’s to try to cleanse, teach, and heal. It’s NOT to try to further, grow, and continue the status quo.

I stand by my above statements and I’d really and truly like to THANK everyone involved with The 100 for all that they do to bring these issues to light and not leave them buried and festering. The show isn’t perfect, but it’s doing the best it can to make a difference in this world we live in now so that maybe in the future we won’t have to live in a world like the one that exists in the show.

If anyone else would like to get in on this dialogue, please do so (respectfully and constructively) in the comment section below.

Written by Erica Schaaf

Erica is a former social worker and mother of three who has been writing since she was a child. She currently writes fanfiction for the Veronica Mars and The 100 fandoms and is published on Kindle Worlds as well as fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org. She hopes to one day have the chance to be a fly on the wall on set of her fave shows while filming!

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  1. I think that the 100 treats their black characters poorly. You’re statistics basically puts anyone who isn’t 100% white in the same POC category in order to argue that there is no racism when it’s clear that different ethnic groups get treated differently (depending on what country you live in). Do you think that when people on Fox New start making sweeping generalizations about blacks that they’re thinking of someone who looks like Bellamy ? That’s like using Keanu Reeves to argue that all POC actors are treated equally and have the same opportunities when it comes to casting. If you redo your statistics and see how they how they treat the characters with the fewest white physical traits, your numbers will change drastically. Torture isn’t the only criterion you should use. It’s all about how they portray the character. Whether they give them a decent story, character depth ,and good character development etc and whether they put much effort into making the audiences connect with that character.

    I was really excited about the 100 concept and stopped watching out of disgust over the way they treated their black characters. I wouldn’t say the CW has ever been that great with minorities (especially blacks and asians) but for me, the 100 took the cake. The reason Well’s death was infuriating was that he was advertised repeatedly (on posters etc) as a main character, I’m guessing to draw in a diverse audience. I wish they wouldn’t do that because it’s insulting to black viewers. Then there was that scene where Murphy urinated on the darkest person in the cast because he stopped to rest while working . Maybe this is something you don’t understand, but a white person urinating on a shirtless black person while he is laboring in the field is one of those images that would make most black people cringe because it brings back images of slavery. Meanwhile Murphy continues to have his own story full of character development, the other guy (was dispensed with pretty quickly and never got a story.
    .
    The other black characters like Pike, Indra and Jaha are not portrayed very well and most viewers seem to hate them. This leaves us with Lincoln who, although he is well liked, is also portrayed in a somewhat stereotypcial manner. I don’t know if the show is racist, but the portrayal of people of my ethnicity in this show painful to watch, which is why I stopped watching. I tried watching a few episodes this season and my opinion didn’t change.. I’m much happier watching shows like Downton Abby that have practically zero black characters than ones that treat every single black character like crap because it sends a terrible message to viewers, especially young viewers.

    When people complain about racism, it is typically the knee jerk reaction of a lot of white people to prove them wrong or to accuse them of using the race card. But next time you do that, why not stop to think why certain things upset others even if they don’t upset you. Try a little empathy instead of being defensive.

    • Ok thanks for putting their names I was trying to think of Pike and Indra and Jaha. They make them so dumb and not capable of logical thought. I agree 100% with you. Same with Lincoln. He’s liked but not a very deep character. I see it all the time in so many shows. They create black characters that are easily dismissed as dumb and not able to demonstrate the same qualities as the white characters.

  2. I was wondering if it was just me. I see the former president who is black the writers made him dumb and now crazy. Then the 2 different people that ran things well were white then they vote in another black leader and he murders 300 innocent people and continues to be dumb. Also the lady who trained Octavia, they made that character seem dense and dumb throughout the entire time. Why do shows always do that? The main star who is like the savior is a blonde hair blue eyed girl. They killed off the presidents kid in the beginning of the show who just happened to be black(maybe that’s not a big deal).

  3. Besides the points everyone already mentioned, can we talk about indigenous representation on this show? How the Grounders are vilified and degraded from season 1 on? The use of classic us vs. them racial rhetoric? I bet you i can find exact phrases in Clarke’s speeches that match speeches given by George Bush or similar assholes justifying invasions because the natives will attack us “It’s what they do!”. They’re either treating with complete contempt or using them for their own gain, so perfectly exemplified by Clarke’s literally draining Ontari’s blood to save her people. It pisses me the fuck off that people watch it and totally ignore these things. Like the show lives in a political vacuum, like these are not real issues still happening. No wonder you people have the second coming of Hitler as president.

  4. Thank you for writing this … over the past few months I’ve watch many post-apolcalyptic shows and noticed trends that blatantly show few PoC in the future. However, upon watching The 100 I realized that these shows aren’t making commentary on the future, which we can’t know, but making observations on the present. They show the implacable aggression, narcissism and chaos that white culture seems to introduce into any sphere it touches. The shows are powerful because they are like a mirror that show mostly White Americans how cruel and destructive they are, but they don’t recognize it. A chilling reality.

  5. I’m white, I started watching the show, liked it, started reading the books, then got back into the show and SPOILER ALERT was horrified that the main pov black dude, a key player in the story’s love triangle, was randomly killed off and replaced by a generic white dude.
    I’m like ‘wow what happened did the actor decide to quit after shooting an episode or something?’
    So I google it and find out that Wells ‘didn’t screen well’ with audiences.
    and like… that feels racist?
    I don’t claim to get this stuff, but I feel like they should have kept wells as a main character and switching him out with a white guy because that ‘screens better’ just feels weirdly awkwardly racist as heck.

    • Sorry should have mentioned wells doesn’t die in the books, he’s actually a main character which is why I was confused and horrified when he died and his role in the Clarke/Bellamy/wells triangle was taken up by Finn (white)
      Because wells ‘didn’t screen well’
      Which again, feels racist

  6. Explain why the network wanted wells off first again? Oh yea…blame it on the audience..i totally believe that…. I suppose the audience is responsible for wanting that in 99% of shows and movies right? Not the network no no no..

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